Everyone's heard of the local American Legion's Spring City Red Sox, but there was also a huge following in 2011 for the Collegeville Pirates. The Pirates, after a stellar 2011 season, are ranked 24th in the country among youth baseball organizations designated as travel showcase teams.
The Pirates are a 15U squad comprised of Limerick, Collegeville, Skippack, Schwenksville and Harlyesville kids. According to team dad Ted Miller, a core group of the boys has been playing together since the age of nine.
"Dave Oczypok coached them through the travel program there," said Miller. "They were pretty successful. When they got to be 13, you can either go on to play legion ball locally or this group. The families of the parents said 'Why don't we continue on?' Dave said he would keep on coaching and brought on another guy, Jim Herron."
Herron took over head coaching duties this year as Ozypok, who's son Michael played for the Spring-Ford Rams and is now studying at the University of Alabama, moved to Florida for business reasons.
Under Ozypok, Herron and assistants Chris Koniencki and John Kellar, the boys had a lot of success, leading up to the team's most successful campaign in 2011.
"They had some real good runs," Miller said. "They played in tournaments up and down the East Coast - Delaware, Maryland. They went out and played a tournament in Nebraska. They did real well."
Last year, they were invited to play in The Perfect Game Showcase Tournament in Fort Myers, Fla. The honor of playing in the tournament is one of the highest for youth baseball players as only 64 teams are invited to play every July.
The boys defeated a very tough Southern California National 14U travel team in the first round and made it all the way to the quarterfinals, where they lost, but placed fifth overall in the tournament. They have been invited back this year, along with some newcomers like teams from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Miller said the tournament is so prestigious that major league players have been showcased. More recently, familiar names like New York Yankee Curtis Granderson and former Phillie J.A. Happ were on participating teams.
The boys are currently 7-1 after a successful start on Memorial Day Weekend. Their most recent game was the first and only loss of the season against the Bucks County Colts. Regardless, members of the community have been following and the expectations are high.
"They've had such success and being ranked so high in the nation they added another player," said Miller. "He's out of Doylestown. He's a very talented kid and that's only going to help this team go on. A lot of these tournaments at this point are to give notice to college scouts to get on the map for some recruiting."
There are four kids from the Limerick area on the team that have been together since the program's genesis.
"They communicate," Miller said. "They've made bonds and so have the parents. You consider them friends and not just teammates. This group of parents get along because the kids were taught the right way to play baseball but also to be gentlemen on the field.
"They've always been that way. They're just a very good group of kids. Good students. They definitely have made lifelong memories and friendships. They'll look back when they're my age and remember what they did. It's going to lead them down a good path."
Grandparents and fans of the team that cannot make travel arrangements to see the boys play have watched gamecasts on an innovative online program called GameChanger. The boys still have a full summer of fun and competition to indulge in.
"It's a neat program and a great experience for these kids," Miller concluded. "They're really starting to get a following."